The president of the Tunisian Pirate Party speaks

The Tunisian Pirate Party is an offshoot of the international anti-censorship movement and the political wing of the Takriz movement, a “street resistance nework”.

In the aftermath of Ben Ali’s fall, one of its high-profile members, Slim Amamou, was briefly in the cabinet and the anti-censorship faction was legalised in March. 

Sled Din Kchouk, the party’s president, talks to Index about politics, internet regulation, transparency and more

Index: Why did it take so long for the Tunisian Pirate Party to be legalised?

Sled Din Kchouk (SDK): The party was launched in October 2010 with the emergence of Takriz movement. At that time the party operated underground. On 9 May 2011 we filed a request for the Interior Ministry to legalise our party (…) After three months, we found out that following an order from Hbib Essid, the Interior Minister at that time, that the party had been banned (Essid has recently been nominated as an adviser to the Prime Minister).

Two people slowed down the process. The first person was General Rachid Ammar (Chief of Staff of the Tunisian Armed Forces), who seemed to have personal issues with Takriz because the movement heavily criticised him [last year a military tribunal ordered the filtering of the Takriz Facebook page]. The second person was Essid who the movement criticised for his links with the former regime. We, the Tunisian Pirate Party, politically represent the movement of Takriz. That is why they don’t like us.

Index: You admit to being part of Takriz, a movement that describes itself as a “street resistance movement”, and which on several occasions has called for violence against police?

SDK: Sure we do. We are the political tongue of Takriz. When someone deprives you from your most basic rights, you only have one choice left: violence. But, Takriz today is employing political speech, with no insults and no bad words. And the best example for that is me; I’m now standing in front of you and talking to you with neither insults, nor violence. I’m proud to be part of Takriz, a movement that will never give up its principles.

Index: How will the Tunisian Pirate Party attract sympathisers and voters when most Tunisians do not consider internet freedom a priority?

SDK: We have an entire economic programme for Tunisia that would create jobs. In Tunisia, we cannot use eBay. Such services have to be available. All companies have to be available online to facilitate commercial transactions. The Tunisian Dinar cannot be converted to other currencies in other countries. Our objective is to open the Tunisian economy via the internet. We also want to revolutionise education through the World Wide Web. In Tunisia only those who study in private universities benefit from distance learning. Why not those who go to public universities too?

Index: Do you plan to run for office in upcoming elections, whether local, legislative or presidential? The Swedish Pirate Party has two seats in EU parliament. Do you think that one day Tunisian Pirate Party will gain seats in parliament?

SDK: With a judiciary, media, and a Ministry of Interior still loyal to Ben Ali [the autocratic former President who ruled the country for 23 years], I do not feel reassured about elections. At the same time, it is our right as Tunisian youths to take part in elections, to be represented, and to shout: we do exist. As for next year’s elections, I cannot answer this question now. It is still too early to decide.

The countries where Pirate Parties are doing well have real democracy. And politicians want the youth to take part in the game. But in Tunisia young people are still not that interested in politics. We, as the Tunisian Pirate Party, want to tell the youth of Tunisia [they] should be leaders. Why do we always have to create cults of personality, and follow them as leaders? The youth should take the initiative and create an alternative. [Our current politicians] are not better skilled than the youth of Tunisia.

Index: Does the Pirate Party support internet legislation in Tunisia? There is an ongoing heated debate about whether the internet, and freedom of speech, should be restricted by what President Moncef Marzouki has called “red lines”. What do you think?

SDK: Before 14 January 2011, Tunisian netizens shared one goal: getting rid of the dinosaur Ben Ali. After 14 January, the internet has been used by many political parties as a propaganda tool. We can certainly use internet during electoral campaigns, but not to defame each other or spread rumours.

Such misconducts are not going to last forever because the Tunisian citizen is brilliant. He is aware that the right wing is using the net to attack the left wing and vice versa. So there is no need for the authorities to regulate the internet. Even if they draft internet legislation, via the use of proxies we can have access to everything.

Index: What is your position on the hacking of the e-mail of Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali by a group claiming affiliation with the international hacking collective Anonymous?

SDK: Hamdi Jebali made a choice to serve the Tunisian people. By making such choice, all information about Hamadi Jebali as a Prime Minister, and not as a person, should be accessible to the people. Any information that involves the livelihood, the rights and liberties of citizens, and the policies that would affect them in the future should be accessible. Tunisians love truth, so it is better for politicians not to lie to them. If the government has plans to take loans from some countries, why are they hiding such plans? Why not put the policies of open government into practice? Why fear transparency?

Index: But open government does not mean hacking into people’s emails? The use of internet has its principles, and you were saying that the Tunisian Pirate Party has its own principles too. Would you accept it if someone hacks into your own e-mail?

SDK: It is against our principles not to respect individual’s right to privacy. The e-mail address that was hacked was not the PM’s personal e-mail address, but it was a professional one under the name of the ruling party, Ennhadha.